Top Ten Podcasts

If you have not noticed, I have not been blogging as much recently. Leading up to and after the Trials, I was a little burnt out with putting out a weekly update. I felt that the quality of each could only be mediocre. Even after an 8 week hiatus due to a stress fracture, I was still reluctant to blog every week. But as I have been deeper into training for NYC, I thought that there might be a few adoring fans who would want an update. And even if there was not any, it was good for me to have something to do. I also wanted to try to and put out something that I was proud of, or at least something a bit different than my usual training log. With all that said, here is something a bit different.

I often get asked if I listen to music while I run. My response is always, “No, but I listen to podcasts!” Inevitably from there they ask what podcasts I listen to. Having graduated from Western with degrees in History and Sociology and a minor in Political Science had a heavy influence on the podcasts I listen to. Basically there are three general categories of podcast that I listen to: history, true crime, and general interest. So without further ado, I give you my top ten podcasts!

  1. My list could not start off without podcaster Dan Carlin at the top. He initially started in radio and broadcasting in the 90’s and in the mid 2000’s began two podcasts, “Hardcore History” and “Common Sense.” “Common Sense” focuses on today’s political events. Dan tends to take a slightly different view and often tries to put into perspective all side of the issues, which is something that many in the media struggle to do. “Hardcore History” on the other hand might be one of the best podcasts out there, regardless of genre. In this podcast, he is known to create interesting and epic story lines of events in history. The recent podcasts often are not shorter than three hours and are spread along multiple episodes. He has covered topics from the Punic Wars of the Roman Republic, to Genghis Khan, to the Eastern Front of WWI. Recently, he just finished a series on the ancient Persian Empire (think of who the 300 Spartans fought at Thermopile). Unfortunately, such involved episodes take a long time to research, record, and produce, but the quality is nearly unmatched in the genre. If you have any interest in history, I would recommend checking “Hardcore History” out. Even if you do not, Dan is a fantastic storyteller who makes turns what is usually considered a boring subject and adds a bit of spice to it.
  2. My second favorite podcast, is just like number one, not actually a podcast, but a podcaster. Mike Duncan started podcasting around the same time as Dan Carlin, with his initial podcast “The History of Rome.” Spanning more than 70 hours of audio and over 1,000 years of history (509 BCE to 476CE), it is a daunting task to undertake, but each episode is usually between 20-25 minutes. This makes it much easier to digest. His current podcast, “Revolutions”, takes a look at famous revolutions throughout history. So far he has covered the English, American, French, and Haitian Revolutions, and is currently working on the Spanish American Revolutions. He is as polished and professional as Dan Carlin, but is not quite the storyteller. But do not let that fact get in the way of a fantastic podcaster.
  3. Third on this list is a relatively recent addition to my collection. “The History of English” podcast looks at how English became English. Starting with the Indo-European language and working his way through the Old English of the Anglo-Saxons, the Norman-French influence on Middle English, to modern English. He looks at how political and social changes altered the way English was spoken and spread throughout the world. Kevin Stroud, the podcaster, does a great job of explaining the connection between events and what impact that had on English. He often will recite both the original English followed by the modern translation, so you can hear where English has stayed similar and also see where it has transformed. Currently, he is halfway through Middle English (around 1200 CE, think Geoffrey Chaucer), and plans to finish with modern English.
  4. Fourth on my list is the classic NPR podcast “Radiolab”. In this podcast, they cover everything from Animal Minds to Cities, and really nothing is off limits as they cover the theories and nuances of each subject. And the best part is that all of their stuff is backed up by science! Most of the podcasts are either around an hour or twenty minutes. If you are looking to have a good entertaining and enlightening podcast, “Radiolab” is the choice out there.
  5. Fifth delves into a completely different topic, true crime. True crime seems to be in fad (and that is only on the fact that South Park has made fun of it), but I find it a fascinating subject. “Sword and Scale” is one of the better true crime podcasts, but I must be forewarning, it can be very gruesome. If that is not your cup of tea, you can head to either #7 or #9. What is so good about “Sword and Scale” is that the podcaster will have tons of audio from the cases. You will hear the case through the words of the perpetrator, victim, and legal authorities. Since all the cases he covers have been solved so there are no cliff hangers or muddled endings.
  6. Sixth on my list goes back to history (of course). “History on Fire” is a recent find for me, and I have grown to really enjoy it. The podcaster is Daniele Bolelli, a history professor and martial artist. He was born in Milan, Italy, so he speaks with a thick Italian accent, even though he admits he does not hear it. Bolelli started the podcast as an ode to Dan Carlin (see #1). He attempts to replicate his narrative style, and does a good job, but it is still hard to surpass the master. Like Dan Carlin covers subject from all eras of history. His podcasts tend to run on the longer side, near to two hours, but are well worth the listen.
  7. Seventh on my list is “Serial”. When “Serial” debuted two years ago, it took the world by storm by being the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads on iTunes. Sarah Koenig, the host and writer, does a great job of focusing on one subject for a season and telling a compelling story. The first season focuses on the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999. There are many questions revolving around the murder and the subsequent conviction of Adnan Syed. Diving into the controversy, Koenig uses her background as a journalist to answer as many questions as she can. For nearly 10 hours you are on the edge of your chair trying to solve the murder yourself. With so much praise, the second season, focusing on American soldier Bowe Bergdahl struggled to live up the magic of the first season, but the first season will keep you gripped.
  8. Eighth on my list is “10 American Presidents”. Writen by Roifield Brown, it focuses on the men and events behind the American Presidency. But the twist is that he gets an expert narrator to host the show. So far he has had the likes of Dan Carlin, Mike Duncan, and Kevin Stroud (See #1, 2, and 3) on as narrator. He goes into depth with each event or biography and hearing some of the best podcasters tell the tale is the icing on the cake.
  9. Ninth on my list is “Criminal”. Produced by Radiotopia, it has received numerous awards since its debut in 2014. It tends to emphasize the social aspect of crime, so it is not as grisly as “Sword and Scale”. Basically it is less about murder and more about other crime, including if the symptoms of PMS can be considered not mentally competent for their crimes.
  10. The tenth and final podcast on my list is another NPR podcast, “Invisabilia”. This podcast grew out of the success of “Radiolab” and an NPR classic, “This American Life”. “Invisbilia” takes the best of both, an importance on scientific studies with a knack for storytelling. The hosts explore the “invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions”. Often they question our traditional beliefs, like character is a static trait, and spin a new light on it.

One last quick note, I would be remiss if I did not tell people to be careful while running with headphones. Accidents happen, even if you are running on the correct side of the road. I will say one good thing about podcasts over music is that they are not as busy. Listening to just someone speak as opposed to music allows you to hear just a bit better, but that in itself is not an excuse for complacency.

I hope you enjoyed a little change of pace from my usual training log post. I hope to do something different more often, so maybe this is only a start. This weekend I head up the Twin Cities for the third year in a row to run the TC Medtronic 10 Mile/USATF Championship. Last year I came antagonizing close to winning my second US title on the streets of St. Paul, but this year the goal remains the same even though I am in different situation. The heart of marathon training is usually not ideal for running fast, but I know that I tend to run better when I do not taper much. There will be a live stream (but I think you have to sign up for USATF.tv+) at USATF.tv and live updates at RUNNERSPACE.com.

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